Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou from Kauai !

The above means happy new year if you haven’t already guessed. I decided to use this opportunity to update my silly little blog, in case anyone is interested in reading about how we are adjusting to life on this beautiful island.

In a word (or three), pretty damn well! I last wrote some random ramblings and this post will probably be more of the same.  It’s been 4 months since we landed here, which feels weird because in some ways it feels like forever, and in other ways it feels like time has stood still, especially since it was sunny, green and humid when I arrived and it’s still sunny, green and humid now. Although we did have a few bouts of “cold” weather which forced me to put on socks for the first time. I know you’re feeling my pain east coast peeps. It’s a hard knock life.

So yeah, it’s “winter”, which on Kauai means LOTS of rain. And rain, we discovered, only helps to increase the mold that grows on pretty much everything in my house. It’s not a pretty sight and it’s a constant battle

but on the other hand this is the view from said house, a regular occurrence because of said rain:

OK I’ll get the other “bad” stuff out of the way. It’s pretty expensive here as I have mentioned so we don’t go out much. But thankfully we have Costco, and Grove Farm museum, where Doug works, is actually a working farm and we get avocados and eggs and soursop and all kinds of strange citrus that I’ve never heard of.

So that’s helping with the grocery sticker shock. I just wish we could find a good supply of fresh fish. There are fish shops that sell poke, and Costco actually has some decent fish, but believe it or not it’s really hard to find fresh local fish (except for the times when we can catch our neighbor who sells Halalu, or baby Akule. YUM!)

Doug is seriously looking into getting some new fishing gear and goin fishin himself. Can’t wait!

The roosters are still getting on my damn nerves and now Shel shakes and hides when she hears them in the morning because a week or so ago Doug went out with a pellet gun to shoot at them and Shel got scared. She still chases them at the farm though, and I hope she catches all the bastards! Sorry for the Language but they are the most annoying creatures on the planet. Even more so than the cane spiders, which don’t bother me but still creep Doug out!

Speaking of Shel, she’s doing great, she’s fully recovered from her accident (which she wrote about in a guest post on my blog, here), and she LOVES Kauai life, dawgs. And why not? She has run of the farm, where she runs around all day,

chasing chickens and barn cats and teasing the pigs and greeting the visitors and getting lots of love.

She also gets to go to the beach, and she loves rolling around in the sand and splashing in the waves.

As do I…well not the rolling in the sand part. But we have found our favorite beaches on “our” side of the island, and are so so lucky to be able to take a dip whenever we want. Or at least when we’re not working.

Speaking of working, in October I received an email from my ex-boss at the Center for Economic and Policy Research saying that my replacement had quit suddenly and asking if I would be interested in doing some development consulting as they had tons of grants due. I did and it’s working out beautifully so far, I’m up at it bright and early east coast time and finish by noon or so which leaves me time to help Doug at Grove Farm…or go to the beach! And my BOOM Move senior fitness class at the Kauai Athletic club is going well, I have about 16 regulars and they can really groove. I may get another class at the community center in Waimea. It’s great to have all of these jobs, because see above about the cost of living. But I’m especially glad to be back at CEPR. I tried to leave twice and failed, there’s a reason…

OK, what else is hard. Missing my people is HARD. I miss my mom and my daughter Jordan and my stepson Holden and Candace and Gina and Tamara and Mary and Joan and Claudia and Liz and Chris and Jo and Roniece and Maureen and my PIC and all of my friends, both in Baltimore and in Paris and beyond. I’ve had some bouts of feeling lonely here and there, but I am getting out and meeting people and I am fortunate to have met someone who I know will be a good friend, in a roundabout way through my friend Maria from Baltimore, which is a sweet story. As one of my Paris amis said, you find your tribe wherever you land. I believe that I will do just that, I just have to remind myself to be patient (which I am NOT).

The local friends that we made here on previous trips live on the north shore and as I am finding out that’s like Siberia in Kauai speak. I have another dear friend who is from here and she even lived within hanging out distance, but she moved to the Big Island soon after we arrived (happy for her sad for me). But I keep up with her great work and she makes me think a lot about some of the other things I struggle with, namely how to reconcile my life with the people of this place, especially knowing what the whole overthrow of the legitimate Hawaiian kingdom has done to the people. I am a sovereignty ally, trying to figure out what that even means.

And I’m figuring out how to co-exist with the gazillion tourists who come here, especially those who don’t respect the culture or the wildlife. I stubbed my toe at Poipu running up to someone to kindly explain that getting all down in a resting sea turtle’s face to take a selfie was not cool.  

Also, people born here are getting priced out, forced to work 2-3 jobs just to survive, so it bothers me when the rich come and buy up land and build gated communities to keep people out. That is something I think about a lot, and I try as hard as I can to be respectful to the communities whose ancestors’ bones are buried here.

And yet, I love it here so much, and feel SO blessed that we are able to live here and to share in the beauty. I know that Doug will do his best to show the history of this place, to help everyone learn and grow and hopefully have more respect for both the people and the land. To do that it’s important to talk about the past. We want to tell the stories of the plantation workers and to help lift up the knowledge about how the Hawaiians lived before the outside world came. I want to learn hula and Hawaiian so that I can understand better.

I have enjoyed our visitors, first my time with the aforementioned Maria, despite her visit coinciding with a stressful week for me that involved my flying to Oahu to see my new eye doctor not to mention grant deadlines. Still we managed to have fun and we had a nice drive up to Ke`e beach on the north shore in my special place, Ha`ena.

And then Doug’s mom and Holden came for Thanksgiving which was awesome. The weather was great and I learned to paddleboard thanks to Maria finding the House Stark SUP. We had such fun on the river, I can’t wait to do it again.

We went to Waimea Canyon and we could see for miles…just stunning.

We spent Thanksgiving at one of the historic properties that Doug manages, Mahamouku, a 1919 beach house that sits on the gorgeous Hanalei Bay. It was magical being there for a few days. We had a great time and can’t wait for Holden to come back. And for Jordan to visit!

Christmas was quiet, Doug told his employees that they could have off from Christmas through New Year’s so we manned the office at the museum and readied the property for tours. It was good getting to know the ins and outs of taking care of the place. I have such respect for all of the lovely people who work at Grove Farm museum, and I look forward to trying to get some grants so that we can do all kinds of good things in the coming year.

So, that’s how things look from down here, on this teeny tiny dot WAY out in the middle of the Pacific ocean that we are blessed to call home. I’ll leave with one more good news story, something that I think speaks to the aloha of Kauai. A few weeks ago I lost my wedding ring while snorkeling at a beach near Poipu called Baby beach. I snorkel there because as the name suggests it’s good for novice snorkelers like me. Doug had to work that day and I decided that I wanted to venture out on my own. I told myself to take off my wedding ring (that has my great grandmother’s diamond as well as diamonds from Doug’s grandmother, ie priceless), but I forgot to do so which was STUPID as I had lost it when Holden was visiting and he found it. Anyway it slipped off somehow while I was adjusting my snorkel. A kind man on the beach and I snorkeled for over an hour looking to no avail, so I left thinking that perhaps I had taken it off at home after all…but no, it was gone.

Doug looked after work and I went back to ask people to post to several Facebook groups that I belong to called Kauai Life and Kauai Community if anyone found it. I posted to the groups as well, and several people suggested that I contact someone named Dutch Medford. To make a long story as short as I can, I found Dutch’s phone number and he came out of retirement to help me find my ring. He has a metal detector and over the years he has found millions of dollars’ worth of lost rings for people, never charging a cent, only accepting “tips”. It took the intrepid Dutch about 10-15 minutes to find my ring in the shallow water.  He is my savior!

So Doug and I decided to give a metal detector for Christmas, so that we can give back in the same way. Plus Dutch said it’s fun, and you find all kinds of things, not to mention loose change.

Well, that’s probably more than enough random ramblings for one sitting. I’ll leave you with this: In my previous post, I had hoped that I would be able to slow down some, to enjoy life. I still don’t miss the rat race. I am more relaxed. The rhythm of this place suits me. The land, the aina, calms me, despite old stresses popping up now and then. May we all enter this new decade with a sense of peace and happiness. We need to stay strong in love.

Here are some sunrise/sunset pictures from the soulful place that is Kauai. Hauʻoli makahiki hou hons! Ya’ll come visit, heah?

Island Dog Tails…

Aloha Kakou! Shelby here, I am taking over my mom’s blog in honor of my other mom, Mary O.  She wanted to hear from me directly about how I am liking life on Kauai. So this post is in honor of Mary, Jim and Alex Opasik, my second family, who I love and miss very much.

OK, getting here was NOT FUN! I had to go to the vet many times and get shots and all kind of other nasty things that I HATE. And I had to get into a crate!!  I’ve always hated those damn things ever since they made me get in one when I came to Baltimore from Tennessee. I was SO NOT happy to be in a crate again, and I didn’t understand why Mommy made me do it, then she LEFT ME and I was in this most awful place and I hated it SO MUCH, and I was scared and shaking!!! But then after what seemed like TWO YEARS I got out and guess who was there? Mommy AND Daddy, and some woman who put this thing around my neck and then Mommy and Daddy put me in a car and I had no idea what in the hell was going on!!!

But…OMG SO MANY NEW SMELLS!! I was really in smell heaven; I didn’t care about not having any squirrels to chase. It was AMAZING. So green and smelly and beautiful. And Daddy took me to a FARM. Get out, I grew up on a freaking farm!! YAY! I was SO HAPPY to be back with the pigs! I get to go there every day. I’m in farm heaven.

But I did really miss chasing squirrels and rabbits and  pretty soon I was feeling bummed out that there are no squirrels and rabbits on Kauai. I didn’t know what to do with myself…until…I realized that there are literally a GAZILLION chickens on Kauai and guess what? They are even MORE fun to chase than squirrels because sometimes I even catch one! And nobody cares because everyone is like OMG we are so over the roosters crowing at 3AM. I am a HERO LOL!

And what is even more awesome, I get to go to the beach, and I LOVE IT! I run into the water and then my most favorite thing is to run back to the beach and roll around in the sand so that I am COVERED in sand. It’s so GREAT! I do hate it when Mommy and Daddy rinse all that sand off in the shower though. That SUCKS! Why can’t I have all the fun?

I also have made some new friends here. Don’t worry Alex, I am still your girl. Bomba and I are JUST FRIENDS I SWEAR SWEETIE LUV U! xoxo

I did have a little accident – some damn ass car HIT ME! It hurt like hell but I am on meds and I think I’m gonna be ok. I got lots of love and treats and my mom told me that everyone was thinking good thoughts about me and I loved that. I’m a SUVIVOR people.

So, I look forward to continuing my MOST amazing life as the Most Happiest Dog on Kauai. PLEASE come visit Mommy, she misses her friends and I just can’t be there for her ALL THE TIME, I have too many chickens to chase.

Aloha from Kauai, dawgs!!

Shelby, AKA Shel Belle, AKA Shoobs OMG they need to make up their freakin minds!

Random Ramblings From Kauai

So, I’ve been here for a month. I still can’t believe that I live here. LIVE here. I hope that the wonderment never ever goes away. I will do what I can to constantly be amazed by this stunningly beautiful place, and will try to remain grateful and thankful. I live 10-15 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. Blessssed:

I’m not really a rambling person, rambling in the sense of writing a post that has no purpose or beginning or end. Mahalo Kauai for forcing me to shake it up (reference to the Cars whose lead singer died after I moved here….)

OK here is my attempt at the free fall (aww in homage to another of my rock idols TP, RIP):

The pace of life is definitely slower here than in Baltimore/DC. And while I vehemently deny that my hometown is a rat infested hell hole, the pace here on Kauai is way slower than the rat race I used to endure (even with the “rush hour” traffic jams). And WAY slower than DC. I can barely remember my two hour commute. AND it feels good to be far away from the rat in the WH.

Although we do have rats here. And cane spiders and centipedes. And lots of cute geckos and skinks. And big moths. But no snakes! And no mongeese. Which is why there are a gazillion wild chickens on Kauai, which leads to my next ramble:

Roosters are a pain in the ass. They literally crow around the clock. And did you know that each one has a distinctive sound? Imagine variations of “screech screech screech screech screeeech”. The sonorous, beautiful, only at sunrise “Cock a doodle doo” is a made up fantasy my people, the real thing ain’t pretty, especially when it wakes you at 3AM.

Prices are high and salaries are low. I can’t fathom how working people survive here. I guess I’ll find out! Trying to be more frugal, which in the end is better for me, and hopefully for the planet. Yes, while the whole political scene in DC seems far far away, climate change feels very real here. I think about it a lot more.

I need to learn how to prounce Hawaiian words properly. Even the street names trip me up:
Ala Kalanikaumaka St
Hanamaulu Rd
Uahiapele St
Kaholalele Rd
Waihohonou Rd

At least I can manage Aloha and Mahalo

Except for my running shoes, I haven’t had anything on my feel except flip flops (slippahs). Mostly I’m barefoot. I have a slippah tan and rough but happy feet.

All of my clothes are just wrong. I will probably wear 1/10th of what I brought, if that. And I’ve had just a bit of eye make up on, one time. Those of you who know me know that that in and of itself is a miracle! It’s too hot for one thing, and I am really trying to accept my aging wrinkled face as it is. From now on I will refer to my sweat as a dewy glow.

Because it’s been hot and I don’t have air conditioning! But this is the last time I will publically complain about that because, um no winter.

I love avacados, which is a good thing because we have an overabundance. It’s so wonderful to be able to eat fresh food from the farm.

And last but most certainly not least: The people of Kauai are some of the nicest I’ve ever met, anywhere. And it breaks my heart to think that overdevelopment and overtouristing is causing them hardship. I am thinking a lot about how to spread the word about the myriad issues facing the native people of these islands. I wrote a scoldy piece about it here: https://sisterofminehomeagain.wordpress.com/2017/08/29/one-hundred-and-one-things-not-to-do-when-visiting-the-sovereign-hawaiian-nation/ The tone of that piece may be a bit harsh, so I am thinking on how to go about an education campaign aimed at visitors and newcomers that will resonate. Stay tuned

And that’s all for now. Much aloha to everyone from the Garden Isle!

Such a Short (ish) Strange Trip It’s Been…Or, How I Was On My Way to Paris and Landed in Hawaii (Literally Speaking)

The title to this post refers to this post that I wrote in February of 2015. How I was REALLY on my way to Paris, but then I went on OK Stupid at the suggestion of my mother, and how I met Hawaii Boy aka Doug, aka my husband. Then I wrote THIS post, about how I was sure that we met because I was the one who was taking HIM to Paris, that I just had to meet him to get there. But, no, what was really happening, which I documented in this post, was that I was falling in love with Kauai, even though I didn’t know it at the time! And so when Doug first heard about a job there, well, in the beginning I was apprehensive, because as I noted in THIS post I had come to the conclusion that we were still destined to be in France. except that the compromise was that we’d live in the south of France so that he could have his canoe there but I still could go to Paris whenever. But obviously that too wasn’t meant to be. The universe, man she moves in some mysterious ways…

OK back to the job. Yeah at first I was apprehensive because there was a previous possibility in Honolulu and I wasn’t feeling it. But.with this possibility I started feeling it. Mainly because it’s on Kauai, the one island that, as I said earlier, I had some strong connection to before I really understood what was happening. And Doug felt the same way, he wasn’t sure about this job at first. But then things started opening up and he had a great phone intervew and then he was invited for a second interview, and they suggested that I come. So I did. And if felt so right. It felt like everything was falling into place before we understood it, kind of like everything else in our 5+ years together.

I hate to even write these words but while making the decsion to uproot our lives was a piece of cake, actually doing so was pretty stressful. Selling our house (that’ hadn’t appreciated), packing, filling out the reams of paperwork required to bring my dog Shelby, quitting my job of 11 years. Yes I had quit before, but in the end I realized that my job at the Center for Economic and Policy Research was one of the best I’ve ever had. NO development director stays somewhere for that long! I’ll miss my CEPR comrades. And I’ll really miss my family and friends. I don’t think it has hit me yet, that I’m so far away from my mom, and daugther, and stepson, and my Baltimore peeps. What will I do on Monday nights without my Candace? But in the end, despite all of that, the decision still feels like the right one.

So today, Doug starts his new job as Executive Director of the Waioli Corp (here is an article about him from “our” newspaper The Garden Island News.) I’m so excited for him, and so proud of him. This job is really perfect for him in every way. And I start a whole new life in a very different place. I had thought that I would be working remotely at a part time fundraising gig but that fell apart, probably for the best. Because now I get to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. 🙂 I’m working on putting together my BOOM senior fitness classes, and I just signed up to get (re)certified as a personal trainer. I’m still looking for development jobs (if you know of any remote jobs hit a sister up.) But mainly I am going to slow the hell down. Breathe. Relax. Hang out with the many wonderful friends we have made here, and make new ones. Live into aging naturally, with as much grace as I can muster. And enjoy this place:

Mahalo for reading. I hope you all come along on my new journey. And come visit! Aloha nui loa, hons…

Adventures in the Aude, Or How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

As many of my friends know (and are tired of hearing about it I am sure), I am recovering from a nasty encounter with a patch of black ice, meaning that I am housebound nursing a sore but thankful body. No concussion and no broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage = sofa bound. (ADDENDUM: Since starting this really long post I am somewhat better. But it’s below freezing outside so I am happy to stay sofa bound today). Anyway, I thought I’d take advantage of the downtime to reminisce about our recent adventures through the south of France.

We decided to visit the Languedoc because, as I mentioned in this post, when we thought that Doug was getting a job with UNESCO we envisioned having a second home in the south of France, somewhere where he could have his canoe and his workshop and where we could escape from Paris whenever we wanted. We looked around and the Languedoc seemed like the place! According to the internet there are still affordable properties there.  I had been there once, 10-11 years ago, and while it wasn’t my most memorable place immediately after returning from a trip that started in Nice and ended in Barcelona, memories of the Languedoc rose to the surface slowly, aging well, like a fine wine. I had always wanted to return and could just envision my little village abode there! It was as fated as Doug getting the job in Paris! We were SO sure that ALL of this was going to transpire that when he didn’t get the job, all of the bubbles were burst. No living in Paris! No home in the south of France. Boo HOO!

But in time we started thinking, hmmm. Maybe the job and the Paris apartment didn’t materialize, but the cute place in the south of France? MAYBE that could still be a (remote) possibility. So we decided to go snooting, as the husband likes to say, and planned a trip. We invited my mother-in-law to join us. Petunia (as she is known to her grandchildren and great grandchildren) is a world traveler and at 39 (give or take a few decades) pretty sprightly. RoadTRIP!

I did a lot of research on possible houses in the south of France locations before we left, checking out everything from voting records to amenities to distance to the sea (canoe, remember the canoe). So I had a list of villages to snoot, as well as places to just tourist. We stayed in the lovely village of Lagrasse, chosen for its central location, as well as its designation as one of the Beaux Villages de France. And it was really beaux.

We rented an apartment from these lovely folks:
https://holidaysinlagrasse.com/
Guy and Claire did a fabulous job renovating the property.

It was perfect, I highly recommend it. (Just be forewarned, if you stay over the Christmas holiday all restaurants in town will be closed. It was fine for us as we ventured out during the day and snacked on cheese, wine and other delicacies in the evening.  For us it all worked out perfectly!)

We wasted no time venturing out and about. Our first full day took us to the sea, Gruissan to be exact. We had a wonderful lunch in the village, fresh seafood and wonderful service at La Cranquette. 

It was a lovely sunny day so we decided to walk off that delicious seafood along the med, popping over to Gruissan Plage. It was a nice sandy long beach, with houses that reminded me of old Ocean City (MD). I can imagine that it’s hopping in the summer. We enjoyed our stroll and Doug found some beautiful shells to take home as souvenirs of our day by the sea.

The next day was Christmas Eve and we wanted to feel in the spirit. I had heard that there was a Christmas market in Carcasonne, home of the famous Chateau Comtal.

(Not my picture, but this is the best view). An enjoyable 45 minute ride later we luckily snagged a parking spot not far away from said market. It was sweet and charming and full of people enjoying the mild December weather, drinking mulled wine or, like us, taking advantage of the wonderful freshness of the oysters (and we of course had to have wine).

We walked around Carcassonne town and worked up another appetite, so we went back to the main square and had a bite and more wine, because why not? Rose to match the sunshine.

Fortified, we figured that we had to visit the castle while we were there, only to find that it was closing soon. But we were still able to wander around the outside, marveling at the view.

Christmas Day! We knew that most places would be closed so the plan was to drive to Narbonne to the market to purchase goodies for our Christmas feast.  We were a little late getting on the road so when we got to the fabulous indoor market most of the vendors were packing up to (rightly) head home to enjoy their holiday. But we were able to snag some provisions including a wonderful roast chicken with potatoes and something called Bouchee a la reine, which is a delicious puff pastry, in this case filled with salmon in a cream sauce. SO GOOD! We also purchased the obligatory Bouche de Noel, and some assorted cheeses and charcuterie and salad fixings and of course a baguette.

All that shopping made us hungry, but we didn’t want to eat a big meal knowing the feast that awaited us, so we found a little café by the canal and sat outside and had an omelette and salad for 10e and pichets of rose and it was so so sweet.

After our lunch we walked around Narbonne.  It’s a really charming town, I look forward to returning.

We took the long way back to Lagrasse, checking out some villages along the way (see below) and had a lovely Christmas dinner.

The next day Petunia was a bit pooped, so Doug and I decided to venture out and about on our own while she chillaxed in the apartment. We had our GPS set to some towns along the canal du midi, as I thought that they might make a nice home base. We had already scoped out some of my other possibilities: Fabrezan, which was close to Lagrasse and looked good on paper, but was just a bit too dark for Doug’s taste. Then there was Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, also very close to Lagrasse and actually quite charming, with a nice little grocery store and a few restaurants. There was Doug’s favorite on paper, the funnily named Fontjoncouse. There was the super sweet Villerouges de Termines. But, as we were to discover about all the nice pretty little villages that I had painstakingly researched, EVERYTHING we might need was a 30-40 minute drive away. Call us spoiled Americans, but as Doug said, if I need a box of nails I don’t want to have to drive 30 minutes to get them. Hmmmmm something to ponder. Was my dream of finding my perfect place dashed already? No place had hit the spot so far and I was starting to get worried – but I was not ready to give up hope!

Undaunted by our lack of mutual WOW to that point we headed to some towns along the canal. First stop La Redorte, which was a nice town, but we just weren’t feeling it.  So we went on to Homps, which we really weren’t feeling. We didn’t get it at the time, but later we realized that we are Corbieres-ians (I made that up).  Lagrasse and environs (including all the way to the sea) are part of the region called Corbieres. From this site:

The Corbières is one of the wildest areas of France with one of the lowest population densities. It is picturesque with wine growing areas alternating with garigue and mountainous countryside. The name Corbières comes from “cor” a pre-Celtic word meaning “rock” and “berre” from the River Berre which runs through Durban. The eastern part of the Corbières with its Etangs, borders the Mediterranean Sea and is called the Corbières maritimes. It has its own distinctive climate and characteristic vegetation known as thermomediterranean vegetation.

OK, all we knew was that we always felt good when we saw this road sign,

and not because of the wine. We just somehow felt better there…

OK I digressed from the travelogue. As we were standing on a hilltop looking over a lake outside of Homps, me feeling like I would never find “our village”, I said “let’s just go to Bages”. I had visited Bages, a fishing village on one of the aforementioned Etangs in the Corbieres maritimes, and remembered liking it. And off we went, first stopping off at the giant Carrefour off the roundabout outside of Narbonne to stock up on…wine, and then 7 minutes later our eyes fell upon this:

Bages, just as I had remembered only better. There were flamingoes! It’s on a hill, but there were fishing boats lining the shore and I could see that Doug was intrigued. He took a video (that I can’t seem to upload unfortunately) and we stood there feeling happy, a feeling that only grew stronger as we made our way up and around the village. We just loved it, the charm, the sea, the fact that it’s a 7-minute drive to civilization (we are so American).

We drove along the Etang to the next town, Peyriac de Mer, which is also very nice, but Bages had captured our hearts. The minute we got back to the apartment we popped open some wine (Corbieres AOC mais oui) and looked at some real estate listings in Bages. OK, not quite as dirt bargain cheap as some of the inland tiny villages, but not out of the question. YES!

The next day we took Petunia to see what we had started feeling was OUR town, and had a lovely lunch with a view

(those windows are the restaurant) We walked around some more envisioning our new house with its rooftop terrace view of this…ahhh.

We took the long way back through the Corbieres, happy.

The next day was our last full day! We decided to go really far afield and drove south, towards the Pyrenees, destination Tautavel. Tautavel is a wine town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, best known for being the site where they discovered that oldest human remains in Europe, dubbed the Tautavel Man. I wish we had taken pictures of the scenery, but we were awestruck and Doug was hesitant to stop the Mercedes along the steep winding little roads. It was breathtaking, huge granite mountains in the distance, green fields and vineyards in the valleys. (Here is a picture of Tautavel, not mine).

We were really hungry when we finally made it to the town and were happy to find a gem of a restaurant called El Silex: Catalan no less! We had a wine from nearby Vingrau and delicious meal served up with Catalan hospitality by the owner/waiter/chef.

Fortified, we popped over to Vingrau (again not my picture, but wanted to show the mountains)

and found the cave open (hate when that happens) and bought 3 bottles.

We decided to check out the area to the east, by the sea, to see if we liked the med further south (we were just south of Leucate). Short answer: we did not!!! Of course, when we headed towards “home” and saw THE sign we understood why. Corbieres-ians all the way.

We sadly said goodbye to our lovely Arch Apartment the next day. We had booked a hotel in Toulouse for our last night, the charming Albert 1er in the center of town. We dropped our beautiful car off at the airport only to discover that most transportation to the center of town was diverted due to the Gilets Jaunes (or Yellow Vests in English). That meant we had to take a tram and walk 20 minutes, including the resilient Petunia.  We showed her to her room for a well-deserved rest and ventured out to see what we could of Toulouse. We soon came across a group of said Gilets Jaunes, milling about as the protest was winding down. 

All seemed peaceful so I approached a woman and asked her in my not so great but passable French to explain to me why she was protesting. From what I could understand, for her it was economics, she lives outside of the city is having a harder time making ends meet and she sees Macron’s government as elitist.  I can’t claim to speak for anyone else and it’s not my country or my battle, but in human terms I couldn’t argue with anything she said.

We went back and fetched Petunia and showed her some sites, she had been in Toulouse with Doug’s dad, and she had many memories to share over a really nice dinner.

It was a great way to end a fabulous trip.

We’ve spent many pleasant evenings since returning reminiscing about our trip over bottles of, what else, Corbiere wine. We decided that we can taste the terroir of our hopefully soon to be “home”. I hope that future entries chronicle my International house hunt in Bages. I hope you come along as I try to live my dreams…

A Real Rainbow over the Corbieres. A SIGN?!

Purse Panda in Paris, the End (For Now)

To anyone following the adventures of Purse Panda in Paris (click here to get up to speed), his Parisian life continued pretty much where the last post left off:

Picnicking on the Seine:

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Drinking wine with friends at Salon

 

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(Sometimes to excess – THIS is how I found Purse Panda one morning! SAD!)

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He had to dry out for a few days. Just coffee for you Purse Panda!

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But when he was not eating and drinking to excess, he continued to enjoy the beauty that is Paris. Purse Panda’s love for Paris grew stronger by the day. He loves fountains as you know, especially this one at the Jardin du Luxembourg:

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And this one at the Louvre:
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Purse Panda loves the Louvre.

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And the Tuilleries,
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And Notre Dame,

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And Monet’s water lilies at the Musee de l’orangerie,

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And Sacre Coeur,

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And of course…

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Purse Panda’s favorite day was a visit to the Jardin des Plantes.  The flowers were so beautiful!

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But the highlight of Purse Panda’s trip was this sign he spotted:

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His peeps!

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Oui! Purse Panda found his tribe in Paris.

As did I…

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Purse Panda is home now, a little jet lagged but happy to be reunited with his entire family.

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He will never forget this trip, and the people he met and loved along the way.  He’ll always have Paris in his heart. He’s a bit sad to not be there, but he knows he’ll be back…

 

 

Purse Panda in Paris Part One

I didn’t set off on my French adventure alone…I have a secret traveling companion. When I was packing for my trip my husband Doug said, “You need to take a creature with you” (no not him!!!), referring to a stuffed animal memento that would remind me of home. After some consideration I chose the travel ready Purse Panda.

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This is Purse Panda chilling in my friend Jo’s Parisian apartment on our first night in Paris!

Purse Panda was a gift to Doug from his son Holden. We hadn’t been dating all that long when we took Holden to the National Zoo on what happened to be Father’s Day. I told Doug that Holden and I would be back and we found a gift shop where I told Holden that he could pick out a gift as a surprise for Doug. The 6-years-old-at-the-time Holden chose Purse Panda. I must say, it was a perfect choice!

So Purse Panda hopped into my Paris-bound suitcase and away we went, first as you know to Nice, where he checked out the French girls on the beach

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and had a nice break by a fountain (Purse Panda loves French fountains, as you will see. I haven’t figured out why.)

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Purse Panda loved the ice-cold Margarita’s we shared on Cinco de Mayo, in the old town

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Purse Panda also enjoyed the trip up in the hills above Nice to the beautiful village of Vence, where Matisse designed a chapel. We hiked to the chapel but it was closed. Purse Panda enjoyed the views nonetheless.

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He also admired this Matisse sculpture.

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And of course this fountain.

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As much as Purse Panda loved Nice,

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Paris is his true passion. He is so happy to be here! He especially loves the Eiffel Tower,

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most especially when it sparkles.

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He also really enjoyed the Jardin du Luxembourg, resting his tired paws with my niece, checking out the crowds and of course, the fountain.

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But what Purse Panda really AIMES the most about Paris is hanging out with and eating and drinking with the Parisian people. Purse Panda is quite the partier it turns out. He adored the gang at the Eurovision party, and the feeling was tres mutual (even though he did NOT understand the rules!)

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Purse Panda enjoys meeting new friends and seeing dear familiar ones.

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He loves nothing more than sitting in the sun, sharing some rose,

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or looking out at the rooftops of Paris from a friend’s apartment.

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He is grateful that I brought him along, and tomorrow he will be reunited with his rightful owner. He is looking forward to more Parisian adventures. Until then, au revoir from Purse Panda in Paris!